Brutal Assaults on Saskatoon Taxi Drivers Must Stop

SASKATOON, Oct. 17, 2017 - A taxi driver from Comfort Cabs is recovering after a brutal attack by a passenger on Oct. 13. The attack serves as a reminder of the dangers that taxi drivers face every shift. The driver was left with severe bruising to his face, as well as other defensive injuries as he attempted to protect himself from an abusive passenger

Despite calls to mandate protective guards and amber flashing emergency lights on taxis, these measures were not implemented. Instead, the status quo of emergency buttons continues to be used so drivers can press them to notify dispatch of emergency situations. Then the dispatcher can use integrated GPS technology to call emergency services. The status quo continues to be inadequate to prevent assaults.

"We are calling on our city council to reopen the discussion about taxi driver safety," said Malik Draz, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2014, representing over 500 drivers in the Saskatoon area. "With three recent, serious incidents against drivers, the time to act is now. We must work together to legislate protective equipment and ensure that the violent perpetrators are held criminally accountable for these assaults."

"Health and safety for workers is a top priority of the United Steelworkers and one of the reasons that our union has started representing taxi drivers," said Steve Hunt, USW Western Canada Director. "No worker should ever be put at risk during a regular work day. Everyone has the right to return home safely. Taxi drivers are no exception."

In March of this year, a driver form Comfort Cabs was stabbed multiple times as he tried to defend himself during a robbery. March also saw the shocking and racist attack on Mohammad Ahkgar, who said such attacks have occurred in the past.

In July of this year, Saskatoon City Council discussed the need to enforce plastic protective guards or amber light call buttons; however no change was officially made to the Taxi Bylaw. A proposed amendment to the bylaw, which would require safety equipment and amber flashing lights that signal an emergency to passersby, was referred back to the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation in August.

"Drivers can't wait for action any longer," said Mike Pulak, a USW staff representative. "These assaults are not isolated incidents and these three attacks are just the ones that were reported. Many drivers face verbal and physical assaults. City hall needs to take action to improve their working conditions now."

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For further information:

Mike Pulak, USW Staff Representative, 306-717-9210, mpulak@usw.ca; Brad West, USW Communications, 604-313-9185, bwest@usw.ca

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